Is Bono A C***?

Mike McCaughan delivers an entertaining intro
Mike McCaughan delivered the intro

I mean, one shouldn’t just assume.

Or to put the question more precisely, is the supposed anti-poverty campaigner actually promoting neoliberal global exploitation? This fair question is asked by journalist Harry Browne in The Frontman: Bono (In the Name of Power), which got its Galway launch tonight in good old Charlie Byrne’s bookshop.

As I understand it, the thesis is that Bono has become the poster child for what is sometimes referred to as the “conscience consumer”. This is the sort of person who chooses a credit card because it gives some tiny percentage of each transaction to charity, who is ready to make the world a better place just as long as they don’t have to get involved personally.

Through being rich and powerful, and associating with the rich and powerful, Bono has come to promote the idea that the rich and powerful will save the world. Despite all the evidence to the contrary so far. It’s an interesting argument, and given his odder actions and pronouncements – see links below – I am inclined to think it’s true.

Is it? Read the book and let me know. College is back and I have about fifty others to get through right now.

Eaten Alive!

The article is slightly horrific, so I’ll illustrate it with many lovely pictures to show why it was still worth going to the island. Probably.

You may be wondering why I didn’t post for several days there, pretty much the whole time I was on the island in fact. Mainly it was because we were virtually camping – having to saw and chop our wood, tend fires, cook, do all the washing by hand, and of course keep various kids amused without the aid of television. A camping holiday is pretty much like other holidays, except that you spend all your time working.

But even when I did have a moment, I couldn’t concentrate. My joke in poor taste had come back to bite me. It is true that mosquitoes are the most dangerous animal in Africa, in that they’re responsible for vastly more deaths than the big predators we usually worry about. They do it by spreading the deadly malaria parasite though. The big ones they have in Finland nearly did for me all by themselves.

They’re having their worst summer for mosquitoes on record. A country, remember, that is almost entirely composed of lakes and forests; they know mosquitoes. But they’d never seen them like this. A few more days camping and I would’ve been drained, a skeleton in a skin sack. The little bastards love me.

Unfortunately it’s not mutual. I react to mosquito bites – drastically, allergically. The site of the snacking reddens and swells. One on my forearm looked like a biceps that’d migrated south. My ankles went missing, and I’m still covered with blotches that look like a livid form of dry rot.

And Christ Christ Christ the itching. The itching! Maddening, excruciating, almost literally unbearable. If itching is a sort of tickling sensation, this was like being tickled by a psychopath with a darning needle. Am I succeeding in conveying that this was really quite unpleasant? And all the worse because I was trying like hell not to scratch. I’d had a mosquito bite become infected once, and needed an emergency injection of antibiotics. I didn’t want that to happen while camping on an island.

I thought my immune system would get used to it, but instead the more I was bitten the worse my reaction got. And, it seemed, the more I was bitten. Perhaps they could tell I was in trouble. The struggle became personal and bitter. I sat in the dark while the others slept, waiting for the tell-tale whine. The walls of the cottage were soon spattered with their blood. Wait, my blood.

What else could I do to prevent the bites? Nothing, it seemed. A citronella wristband might have been helping until it ran out – either that or I was just lucky the first day. Tea tree oil didn’t seem to repel them either, even when applied thickly enough to repel people. Though I sprayed literally every inch of my skin with Autan before going to bed, I was still eaten as I slept.

And nothing cured the itching either. I tried two antihistamines, two different analgesics (aspirin and ibuprofen), a hydrocortisone cream, a tripelennamine hydrochloride stick, and tea tree oil. None of them provided anything you could even dishonestly describe as relief.

Only one thing made the itching go away. It worked instantly, its effects lasted for hours, it was actually downright pleasant to apply. It’s available without prescription – in fact you can’t buy it in any pharmacy or  health food shop. And fortunately, it’s abundant in Finland.

What is this miracle cute for itching? Heat. Simple heat. Preferably as a powerful jet of water. On the island we didn’t have a shower – in fact we had no plumbing other than a cold tap – but we did have a sauna! Plus a wood-fired boiler with gallons of the stuff. I poured it on with a ladle, Japanese bath style, hot as I was able to stand – which seemed to be about 2°C short of first-degree burns. The heat actually intensifies the itching – in the same way that scratching does, but even more so. Like it was making all the itching that was due in the next few hours happen at once, getting it over with. The relief was… How can I put this politely? Think of the thing that gives you the greatest, the most sudden and complete, feeling of relief.

Yes, exactly. A strangely, intensely sensual experience. It was almost worth the itching to feel that release. Almost. For the first time in my life, I understand sadomasochism.

Finland – it’s the tropical paradise for people who like their tropical paradises with less heat. And indeed, three months of snow.

Steaming Man

I stepped out of the sauna, onto the big rock this little cottage is built on, and walked a few yards along the wooden gangway through the reeds that leads to the jetty where we’d tied up the rowing boat. I stood there a while, admiring the coloured fringe of the post-sunset sky. In the cool evening air a delicate mist was rising. Off me, I realised.

The sauna’s effect of course. But I prefer to imagine it’s because of all the manly stuff I did today. Chopping woods and rowing boats and toting bails, that sort of thing. Worked so hard, didn’t need no durn sauna. Steam-cleaned mahself.

Fending off deadly predators too. Mosquitos. Don’t laugh, the mosquito is the most dangerous wild animal in Africa. They aren’t the most dangerous wild animal here, no, but I think that’s rather beside the point.

Perhaps though the hardest task today was taking my turn at looking after two girls, both under seven. It becomes even greater a challenge when your vocabulary in their language does not include such useful phrases as “Put it down”, “Stop doing that she doesn’t like it”, “Does your mother normally let you play with those?” and “Where the hell are you going now?” So far my Finnish extends not much further than yes, thank you, and good; a polite and positive vocabulary, but one that has little application in these circumstances.

I just have to learn to say no.

Blackberry Crumbles

Blackberries
When our children hear us talking about BlackBerries, they'll think we mean these things. (Image by Liz Brooks via Flickr)

The only real question is, whose government did this?

Blackberry phones are beloved of businesses worldwide because they allow people on the move to communicate in a secure, private way. By the same token, they’re hated by governments – oppressive regimes especially of course, but also those facing internal security threats. (I’ll leave you to decide into which category the UK falls.) So far, their maker RIM has stood pretty firm on not allowing governments to eavesdrop on their traffic.

So when that service suddenly breaks down, first in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and now in South America, you wonder just who it is showing them that business is all about compromise. As in: compromise, or I’ll kill you.

Oh they say it’s a physical fault in their servers. But they would, wouldn’t they?

Libya – Beginning Of The Start

Muammar Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi (in Dimashq, Syr...
On the positive side, at least we won't be seeing much more of the world's most failed moustache

Sorry for the absence yesterday. I was helping an 11-year-old jailbreak an iPhone. It seems they still have children here in the future.

And I was also waiting for the full-time result from Libya. It isn’t over of course, in the sense that innocent people haven’t finished dying yet, but the end of the Gaddafi regime does seem inevitable now.

How will we know it’s truly gone? Simple. That’ll be when the rebels start fighting each other. What unites them all, apart from the conviction that Gaddafi could be defeated? Not a lot. Democracy? No one really fights for the opportunity to lose an election.

They’ve already managed to assassinate their own military leader in what was, even in the most charitable view, a factional revenge attack. So that doesn’t exactly bode well.

And even if the Gaddafis are out out of the picture, some of the forces nominally fighting for them will probably be happy to continue the war of their own behalf, and will seek common cause with factions within the rebellion. So in all likelihood we’re now moving from a two-sided war to a multi-polar conflict.

Celebration seems a little premature.

Five Facts To Help You Forget How Crap Today Was

Leinster House
Little-Known Fact: Leinster House, the parliament building of Ireland, is on another f***ing planet.

Today yet another report on clerical abuse revealed yet more rape of children. The government says that child neglect is a thing of the past, but that the terms of the EU-IMF bailout deal require it to end the jobs of 200 Special Needs Assistants. That deal is supposed to get us back into the bond markets, yet following it has made these markets declare our bonds worthless. And the Euro is on the verge of collapse anyway, so it’s actually all meaningless.

However the hottest news item of the day was a personal remark about someone’s appearance made in parliament. Sometimes you just want to give up.

So I gave up. Unable to say anything meaningful about so much insanity, I went outside in the sun and painted the gateposts to match the wall.

I’ve decided that the colour is really 50% Grey – the shade exactly half way between black and white. I can like 50% Grey. (It’s probably more like 53% really, but I choose to ignore this.) It reminds me of Photoshop, and it’s a good mount card colour for black and white images. Anyway, it all looks nicer now that the walls and gateposts match. That at least was productive.

So here, instead of a proper post, are five things I learned today while drifting listlessly about the Internet:

1) There’s a company in England that sells a handmade sports car called the “5EXi”. Presumably this is a vehicle designed and built specifically for the needs of twats.

2) A disease called “nodding syndrome” is spreading in Africa. The symptoms include stunted growth, and a lack of neck muscle tone causing the characteristic nodding. No one yet knows what causes it.

3) Teapoy is a word of Indian origin meaning a three-legged table. By erroneous association with the word “tea”, it is also used to describe a table with a container for tea. So if you were stuck on today’s Irish Times simplex crossword, now you know.

4) There are now at least three people on Google+ posing as Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. Well I guess that should be “at least two”. One of them could be real.

5) There’s a fashion currently for women’s pants with the crotch hanging down at the knees. A friend in the States was prevented from boarding a bus because the driver considered them unsuitable attire. They call them harem pants, I think because women in harems wore them when they wanted their Sultan to leave them the hell alone.

Ireland’s Olympus

Pretty pretty petrol pump

Wow. I’m not sure what kind of weekend you had here, but I don’t know when I’ve been hotter. No actually I do. It was at the Hoover Dam. I’ve just been in the warmest place I’ve ever known, with the sole exception of the Nevada-Arizona border. Seriously, I’ve been to colder parts of Africa.

Yet this was Carlingford, County Louth. I can’t quite explain how but I ended up at a festival of Celtic culture there, helping to keep a three-year-old from wandering about. When you consider that we were watching Highland Games, with such events as hammer throwing, caber tossing and hurling weights backwards over your shoulders, you can appreciate how important it is to keep your three-year-olds from wandering about. The sports might be odd but the athletes were spectacular; some of them were so broad they’d be taller lying on their sides. And of course, all in skirts. Yet it was one of the smaller – I believe his name was Ray O’Dwyer from Tipperary – who threw a hammer one hundred feet that day, a new Irish record. Though when I say smaller, you have to remember that’s relative. He would be about four times the size of me.

Huge dudes in frocks

Apart from the Highland Games there was some Scottish dancing and a local pipe band. If it wasn’t for a bit of Breton dance it would’ve been a Gaels-only affair. Alongside all the culture there were – thank God – some of the usual funfair kid-distractors, including a “Safari Train” decorated with some really quite astonishing caricatures.

Fun for all the family, if your family is racist

When it finally cooled we went to PJ’s, a lovely old pub that has survived being extended without completely losing its character, and applied after-sun cream in lavish quantities. Later we went to a concert of Breton music in a converted church, most of which I spent outside attempting to talk the aforementioned small child out of screaming. So if you were passing through Carlingford and happened to see a man holding a struggling, yelling child in a graveyard, there was no need to be worried. He shut up eventually.

Noon the following day I was sitting out drinking beer, not so much burning in the sun now as catching light, when one of those things happened – I met an old friend I’d lost touch with six or seven years before. We went for dinner to celebrate in Magee’s Bistro, which was really good and not expensive. I had the frogs’ legs because I’d never tried them before, and my love of nature compels me to taste it all. Frogs legs, it turns out, have a flavour just like snake.

Oh all right, between very tender chicken and good squid. Nice, but I don’t think I’ll eat them again. There was something too sad about the way they came in little pairs.

My friend's front wall

Turned out my friend owned a cottage not far from the village, so we stayed the night there. What I didn’t realise until the morning is that it was right on the sea. I mean, like other houses are on the street. When I awoke it was high tide – and the sea was up to her front wall.

Her garden shed

Which was low and white, like a wall in Greece. And the sun was like Greece. And the sea. When my other friends – and the small child – arrived the tide was out again, and we walked across Dundalk bay chasing crabs and picking mussels. I’m cooking those mussels for dinner now. Sometimes the world is perfect.